Innovation That Matters

The lamps were made with materials that included wicker, agave plants, coconut bark, adobe, collagen and black beans | Photo source Luis Fernando Sánchez Barrios

Students design solar lamps from rubbish


University students in Mexico have created solar-powered lamps from local, natural materials that are commonly thrown away

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Spotted: According to a 2019 study, around 1.8 million Mexicans live without mains electricity, while another 5 million have limited access to power. In an effort to draw attention to the need for sustainable solar power, students at Mexico’s Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey have partnered with designer Moises Hernández to create solar-powered lamps made from throw-away materials.

The hand-held lamps were made with materials that included wicker, agave plants, coconut bark, adobe, collagen and black beans — all of which are commonly found in rural areas and have a low carbon footprint. The lamps included simple electronic components and a small solar panel, which could be easily transferred to a new lamp if the first one is damaged. 

The idea was to demonstrate that, with just a few basic components, a lamp can be made from almost anything. The project was inspired by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson’s Little Sun project, which provides solar products to communities without electricity around the world. While Eliasson’s Little Sun lamp is robust and designed to last, the Mexican projects are designed to be easily constructed and replaceable.

Hernández explained that the project intended to “look for new ways of production in rural areas or isolated communities where they do not have any injection plastic facilities to make the main bodies of lamps.” He added that the students chose materials from different areas of Mexico, visualising, “new scenarios where these type of technological objects can be assembled and distributed to local people.”

There is tremendous interest in solar power as a way to boost off-the-grid communities. Recent innovations covered by Springwise include a solar backpack that provides light to help students study at night and a solar-powered water extractor and purifier for communities lacking access to clean water.

Explore more: Agriculture & Energy Innovations | Sustainability Innovations



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